Terry Moore is a master cartoonist, and his best-known and best-reviewed work, Strangers in Paradise, is coming back in 2018.
Later this week -- Friday at 3:00 p.m. PST, to be exact -- Moore will be talking to fans at Comic Con International: San Diego about the return of Strangers in Paradise next year, an event timed to the 25th anniversary of the acclaimed series.
The comic debuted at a time when the U.S. comic book market was so healthy that Moore and other indie creators could make a splash even with creator-owned, black-and-white comics.
"What most people don't know about love and relationships would fill a book," Neil Gaiman famously said. "Strangers in Paradise is that book."
"Terry's managed to take the traditional love triangle and keep the story vital and involving for more than a hundred issues, via two different companies, maybe three," said filmmaker Kevin Smith. "When people say comics are dead, I shove an SiP graphic novel into their hands."
The Eisner and GLAAD Award-winning series ended in 2007, although Moore has never been able to fully divorce himself from the series; Rachel Rising and Echo both featured recurring characters from Strangers in Paradise, while Moore continuted to market SiP t-shirts, prints, and a comic strip-style comedy titled SiP Kids.
With the first details about the new Strangers in Paradise likely to be going public this week, it seemed as good a time as any to look back on why the original is so beloved, and what makes us eager for more.
THE STARTING POINT
Strangers in Paradise originally started as a love triangle -- David loved Katchoo, Katchoo loved Francine, and Francine was precariously balanced on the edge of a nervous breakdown, clinging to an unhealthy relationship and unable to deal with who she really was.
Over the course of nearly 20 years of comics, they all ended up in wildly different places -- and those places will be the starting point for the new Strangers, presumably featuring characters who are evolved years past where we last left them.
At the core of Strangers was always a "will they or won't they?" relationship that finally resolved itself in the final year or so of the series. The effect of that trope on long-form storytelling is often that characters feel like they are treading water -- and that was certainly true of much of Strangers in Paradise's history.
Starting the characters off at a wildly different point in their lives is a great way to shake up the status quo of a series which, having run over 100 issues, most readers will feel like they know pretty intimately. The presumed inclusion of Katchoo and Francine's children, now about ten years old, will add another wrinkle particularly if -- and we're assuming this will be a thing -- Katchoo's former life in organized crime once again comes calling.prevnext
We touched on this in the previous point, but there is a lot to love in the characters of Strangers in Paradise.
Katchoo, Francine, and David were all three-dimensional characters, flawed and broken, who gradually found their way to where they needed to be or were destined to be. The series was rocked by tragedy a handful of times, including with the loss of some of the most significant players in the saga.
Even seemingly minor characters like Casey Femur -- Francine's ex-boyfriend's "dumb blonde" wife -- came to life in interesting and exciting ways. Casey, who started as a kind of dull character archetype, ended the series as one of the most fascinating characters in Strangers in Paradise (or comics as a whole).
What made the series so remarkable is that very little of the character growth felt like it was there in service of the larger plot; it all felt earned, and as a result more rewarding.prevnext
MOORE'S WRITING QUIRKS
Years on, having completed two other major works, it is clear that Strangers in Paradise contained elements that Moore would not reuse with any frequency after it was over. His use of music, for instance, appears in all of his work but it was much more dominant in SiP.
Another thing he did beautifully in Strangers in Paradise was to use prose within the comics to enhance mood, build suspense, and give him the opportunity to reveal information more slowly than he ordinarily would when drawing a scene.
One of the best scenes from the comic centered on "Twilight's Child," a three-year-old girl who survived a plane crash (the crash being a key plot element in the series), only to live a short, sad life and die in her teens.
The character was not a major player in Strangers in Paradise, but Moore effectively used her tragedy to frame just how impactful the crash was on the world outside of our heroes -- and since it was the characters at the center of Strangers who were the most "important" on the plane, that gave everything around the crash scope and scale beyond just being a "big, violent thing that happened."prevnext
THE GUT PUNCHES
Off the top of our head, we can come up with four major events in Strangers in Paradise that threw us for a loop the first time we read through it...and it was almost always the kind of surprise that utterly took the wind out of you.
Things as obviously-huge as major character deaths or things as seemingly-small as Francine working out an anagram could become the kind of moment that a series hinges on -- and Moore masterfully manipulated his audience to make one of the best and most genuinely unpredictable crime/conspiracy stories in comics.
The aforementioned story of the Crash of Flight 495 was similarly emotionally wrecking, and it set things up that would play out for years to come afterwards...something audiences could not have known at the time.
Hell, even the decision to make Francine's seemingly-perfect husband related to Katchoo's favorite indie rock star seemed at the time like just another aspect of Brad's wish-fulfillment fantasy, but turned out to be something much darker and far, far more interesting.prevnext
At this point, we have no real idea what genre the new Strangers in Paradise will fit into.
The closest parallel we can draw is Twin Peaks. Years after it went off the air, the cult-favorite series has returned -- but in the run-up to the series, nobody could quite figure out what the new "angle" was.
Now that it's on the air, most people are still struggling with it, but that's another conversation entirely.
With the new Strangers, fans can make assumptions -- in a Comic Con poster one year, Moore depicted Francine and Katchoo with wedding rings, implying that the pair had married; they still have kids who, assuming the character are aging in real time, will be about 10 or 11 now; we have a sense for what Tambi and some others are up to as a result of Echo.
But really, we don't know what adventure is going to bring these characters together again in a way that will be worthy of the twenty-fifth anniversary of one of the best comic books ever made.
And that's almost more exciting than anything else about it.prevnext
MORE TERRY MOORE
Terry Moore can be found starting on Thursday at booth #2109 at Comic Con International.
Moore began his comic book career with Strangers in Paradise over twenty years ago and has since written, drawn, and lettered Echo, Rachel Rising, and his current series, Motor Girl.
That series centers on a girl and her best friend, a gorilla. The pair work together fixing cars at a gas station in the desert, and one day, they're approached by an alien with a damaged UFO. She helps him on his way, and word of mouth about her excellent services makes her little garage a UFO hot spot, attracting the attention of an investigator from Area 51.0comments
The premise is different from the 2007 original, which helps since at the time when Rachel Rising launched, Moore suggested that elements of Motor Girl had been incorporated into Jet, a supporting character from Rachel Rising who first appeared in Strangers in Paradise.
More Terry Moore:
- New Strangers in Paradise Coming in January
- Terry Moore Selling Off the Brushes He Used to Draw Strangers in Paradise, Rachel Rising, and Echo
- Terry Moore's Rachel Rising Cleans Up at Ghastly Awards
- Terry Moore Catches Us Up on Writing Rachel Rising -- The Comics and the TV Pilot